Sleep in the Elderly: Unanswered Questions

Clin Geriatr Med. 2017 Nov;33(4):579-596. doi: 10.1016/j.cger.2017.06.009. Epub 2017 Aug 19.


Sleep normally changes with aging, with implications for healthy elderly individuals as well as for those with disease states. Less slow wave sleep (deep sleep) is expected, along with more awakenings, and a tendency toward earlier sleep times. Rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder is seen primarily in elderly individuals, and it often represents the earliest sign of a chronic and progressive neurologic disease. Complaints of difficulty initiating and maintaining sleep (insomnia) become more common with aging. Irregular breathing with sleep also becomes more common, with an increased Apnea Hypopnea Index that may not always be clinically important.

Keywords: Elderly; Insomnia; REM behavior disorder; Sleep; Sleep apnea.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Nervous System Diseases / diagnosis
  • Nervous System Diseases / etiology
  • REM Sleep Behavior Disorder* / complications
  • REM Sleep Behavior Disorder* / diagnosis
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sleep Hygiene
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / diagnosis*